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+---Topic: Koster Trip 6/12-21/03 Fort Wilderness & Star Wars started by RichKoster

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 14, 2003 7:28 am/pm

Koster trip report: WDW Fort Wilderness Cabin 6/12-21/03 - Part One

Meeting the real Dreamfinder, Star Wars Weekend, & more!

This is part one of my trip report about our June 2003 trip to Walt Disney World in which we had quite a lot of firsts for us, including staying at a cabin in Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, attending Star Wars Weekend, meeting Ron Schneider -- the real Dreamfinder, and a whole lot more that was brand new to us even though we've been to WDW so many times we've lost count. In this first part of the trip report, I'll present an introduction which includes some of the highlights of our vacation (which was only two months since our last WDW vacation -- read about that trip by clicking here). And read about our October 2003 WDW vacation by clicking here.  You can also see the trip report about our Easter 2004 Disney Wonder cruise and Polynesian Resort vacation by clicking here. Details about our September/October 2004 vacation including Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party plus WDW's birthday and the Polynesian Resort can be found by clicking here to get to that trip report. Some of this was taken from family conversations about our trip, so not all of these words come directly from me. And don't worry -- there will be more installments of this trip report soon. I have many more details to come!

Highlights of our journey: Fort Wilderness Cabin & Star Wars Weekend...
From the wilderness to a galaxy far, far away!

Cast of characters in our family:
  • Rich (me), 50, 20+ trips to WDW, 2 trips to Disneyland
  • Carol DW, 49, 20+ trips to WDW, 3 trips to Disneyland
  • Michael DS, 7, 6 trips to WDW
Travelling: Our Journey began 6/12/03, driving from home in our Minnie-Van, we arrived at WDW on Friday the 13th but it was far from being unlucky overall, and we arrived home 6/21/03. We were at WDW for 8 nights and still could have done more things!  That just proves you can never have enough time to do everything you'd like to do at Walt Disney World.

Lodging: We stayed at the Lake City, FL Hampton Inn on the way and 8 nights at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground in a cabin. On the way back we drove straight through from WDW to home.

Special requests: At Hampton Inn, requested and received king size bed and sofa bed, non-smoking, and due to allergies we require no feather/down pillows. At Fort Wilderness, all the cabins are already non-smoking so we requested no feather/down pillows and loop 2500 near the laundry.

Firsts for us on this trip:
  • Staying at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground for the first time
  • Our first-ever vacation in a FW cabin
  • Our first family "camping" trip (if you call consider the luxurious FW cabins as "camping..." )
  • Star Wars Weekend, including a light-saber duel between Darth Vader and our DS Michael!
  • Meeting and having breakfast at Boma with Ron Schneider, the voice of Dreamfinder in parts of Epcot's original Imagination attraction and WDW's first Dreamfinder/Figment walkaround
  • Journey Into Your Imagination with Figment
  • Test Track
  • Cinderella's Royal Buffet including "guy talk" with the Prince
  • Our first look at MK's Share A Dream Come True parade
  • My first haircut at MK's Harmony Barber Shop, complete with songs from the Dapper Dans
  • Seeing the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue from the "shelf"
  • Driving straight home rather than stopping overnight: This was a first for the 3 of us all together, but Carol and I had done it years ago before Michael was born.
Weather during our vacation: After starting off on our first day with some scattered showers and downpours, followed by mostly sunny skies, the first half of our vacation was quite hot and very sunny, but we knew a June vacation in central Florida would be. We would just melt in the middle of the day so we'd come back to our cabin and check the Weather Channel to see it was 96° -- hot as blazes!
:devil:  We'd enter the parks each morning and immediately sweat would be pouring off our scalps and over our faces. But it was fun. It seems like your aches and pains go away once you're in the park. Carol got in the habit of bringing wash cloths with her from the cabin and just wiping them over her face and brow to get the sweat off. Around 2 each afternoon it was so hot and draining we'd go back to the cabin where we'd grill burgers or hot dogs or have something from our bought-for-the-trip crock pot -- and one time we grilled our own steaks. We hit on a strategy of having supper in the middle of the afternoon at our cabin. We'd cool off, take a swim, a shower/change clothes if you wanted to, and then head back to the parks.

On the last days of our vacation it cooled down a little thanks to the rain showers and skies being overcast. That ruled out the possibility of going to see a Disney movie at the campfire program, however. We were too busy to do it during the first half of our vacation when the weather was cooperating, and then couldn't do it later when we wanted to because of all the rain and thunderstorms.

Next up: Our journey begins.

Posted by: mickeysdad on Sep. 14, 2003 9:08 am/pm

Hey, Rich.  How long is the drive from New Orleans, anyway?


Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 14, 2003 9:22 am/pm

We live on the northshore of Lake Pontchartrain, north of New Orleans -- plus we had stops along the way (and a major detour on our way to WDW) -- so I'll give you the estimate from the center of New Orleans to WDW, travelling along I-10 to I-75, then south on I-75 to Florida's Turnpike, etc. to WDW.

Mapquest estimates that would be about 640 miles and take about 10 1/2 hours, depending on driving conditions and road construction (not counting stops for gas/meals/restrooms).

For us, due to a detour we needed to take to avoid major traffic tie-ups that I-10 construction was causing at the LA-MS border at that time, our actual number of miles between home and WDW, counting stops & detours, was 671 miles. The actual driving time for us on the way there was 9 hours, 42 minutes (without stops). When we add in the time for travelling over there with stops for gas, snacks & meals, restroom breaks, and shopping at the official Disney Information Center in Ocala, Florida (but not counting the stop overnight for the motel), our elapsed time was 13 hours, 25 minutes .

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 18, 2003 3:35 am/pm

Thursday, 6/12/03: Our Journey Begins
o/~ "I'm going to Disney World" o/~

We left home at 11:20 am in our Honda Minnie-van, driving along I-12 East. It was raining lightly when we left and the skies were cloudy. There were some heavy downpours along the way, but most of the time it didn't rain.

A quick bite for lunch: We got a late start so we knew we had to eat lunch quickly. We had already gotten off the interstate because massive construction delays on I-10 at the Louisiana-Mississippi state line had traffic backed up even onto I-12 near Slidell. So while driving past a Subway sandwich shop in Slidell we got some quick subs (even used a discount coupon! ) and we ate quickly in the car then after I wolfed down my sandwich I started driving again, even before everyone else was totally finished. The detour added many miles and extra time on the road to our first day, but we got to see a scenic, non-interstate route through parts of Louisiana and Mississippi for a change. Once we got back on the interstate in Mississippi we made good time again.

Penny for your thoughts: In Baldwin County, Alabama, Carol found a penny while we were getting gas. More to add to the treasury for penny wishes at WDW!

The most surprising thing about our journey to WDW: We were pleasantly surprised when we stopped for supper at Cracker Barrel in Tallahassee, Florida, because we were seated immediately and served our food very quickly. We stopped to eat at 6:59 pm and left at 7:45 pm.

A pleasant greeting: We arrived at the Hampton Inn in Lake City, Florida, to stay for the night. It was 10 hours and 2 minutes after leaving home that morning and of that time 6 hours and 54 minutes was driving time. When we got into the room ( #118 ) at 9:30 pm, a personalized welcome letter was waiting for us from the manager of the place. That was a nice touch. We had one king size bed and a sofa bed. All of us were ready to hit the sack. We relaxed while watching a TV show about the volcano in Hawaii on the Discovery Channel. That would have been very fitting to see on our April trip when we stayed at the Polynesian Resort! At 10 pm Carol and I had already drifted off to sleep, so our DS Michael turned the TV off himself then we all dozed until early the next morning.

Friday, 6/13/03: Up before dawn
It does not look like morning...

At 4:30 am, Carol and I made coffee in the room, ironed clothes, and watched TV quietly while DS Michael was still asleep. At 5:25 am Michael woke up, and watched Animal Planet's Funniest Animals on TV while we all got dressed and ready for the day.

From 6:40 am to 7:45 am we ate the complimentary Hampton Inn breakfast. Carol and I finally had enough coffee so we all drove away from Lake City.

Next stop: Ocala! At 9:10 am we got gas for $1.479/gallon in Ocala, FL, at Gator's Chevron -- but we didn't see any gators. Instead we went to Disney's Official Information Center (also known as the Disney Welcome Center) at 9:20 am. Carol found 3 coffee mugs that she had thought about getting on our last trip. Now they were at clearance prices so she bought the 3 coffee mugs she wanted at $5.99 each.

Movin' right along... We paid our $1.00 toll at the first FL Turnpike tollbooth at 10:35 am, exiting to US 27 which we took to Highway 192.

The worst/best things about our journey: We saw a few very bad accidents during the trip to WDW and the trip back home. We were particularly thankful when we didn't get into an accident on I-75 the day we were heading home: A lot of cars bunched up, hit their brakes, and came to a complete stop soon afterward in the northbound lanes on the interstate. I was allowing plenty of room ahead of our van because I had a dream the night before about something like that happening... So I was being especially careful that day. In spite of that harrowing experience, it was a great thing to get home safely in one day rather than stopping overnight. But it took leaving first thing in the morning and not being tempted to go to one last park or do any shopping that morning, which as a family we never managed to do before.

Next report: We arrive at Walt Disney World and head to Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 19, 2003 3:22 am/pm

Friday, 6/13/03: We arrive at our home in the wilderness and then travel to a galaxy far, far away...

Our first day at Walt Disney World was a partial one because we were arriving and checking in to Fort Wilderness in the middle of the day.

We were all excited to be driving up World Drive, anticipating our first-ever camping vacation at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground in a cabin. After stopping at the Magic Kingdom toll plaza on the right side and letting the CM know that we were checking into Fort Wilderness, he directed us to the right and said to take the first right turn, then Fort Wilderness would be up the road on our left.

We drove in to Fort Wilderness and eagerly told the guard at the security gate we were checking in that day. He checked a printed list and found our name there, so let us in. After parking right near the doors to the resort lobby. What great theming, both inside and out! We were instantly transported to another place and time, deep in the wilderness long ago. It was 11:35 am when I stepped up to the front desk and was checked-in by a woman CM named Vern. She said we could have our requested loop but we'd either have to wait for a cabin near the pool and laundry building or take one a few cabins away which we could have right then. We decided to take the one that was ready. Everything went smoothly, and after we briefly admired the log cabin theming inside the lobby we got back in our Minnie-Van at 11:47 am and drove to loop 2500, Cedar Circle and found our wilderness cabin, #2518 on the left side of the one-way road. Cedar Circle is indeed right next to the pool and laundry building -- and our cabin was only a short walk away from the pool.

Next: A tour of our cabin!

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 19, 2003 3:29 am/pm

Note: The video files here use RealPlayer, which you'll need to play back these sound and video movies. There is a free version of RealPlayer here.

This is not streaming video... The movies will first download completely to a temporary area and then RealPlayer will be launched to play the movie.

If you have any problem playing these files and you've installed the current version of RealPlayer, instead of clicking on the movies with your left mouse button, click the right mouse button on the link instead and then save the file to your hard disk and play it using your RealPlayer software from there.

Carol and Michael invite you to tour our Fort Wilderness cabin.


> Click here to see Part 1 of the video tour of our Fort Wilderness cabin! In this part you get a tour of our wilderness neighborhood and the exterior of our cabin.

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 19, 2003 3:37 am/pm

Get a cook's tour of the fully-equipped kitchen in our cabin.


> Click here to see Part 2 and take a tour of our kitchen!

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 19, 2003 4:07 am/pm

There's plenty of room for the family to relax.


> Click here to see Part 3 and see what the family room has to offer!

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 19, 2003 4:10 am/pm

A full-size bed plus bunkbeds are found, where else? -- in the bedroom!


> Click here to see Part 4 and take a tour of the cabin's bedroom.

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 19, 2003 4:22 am/pm

This may be the wilderness, but don't worry -- there's indoor plumbing!


> Click here to see Part 5 and go into the roomy bathroom.

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 19, 2003 4:25 am/pm

We love staying at our wilderness cabin!


> Click here to see Part 6 for the conclusion of the tour.

Posted by: Liv2CdWorld on Sep. 19, 2003 2:28 am/pm

Great tour Rich!  That's such a great idea!! I'll have to tape a tour during our next trip.

Thanks for sharing!!

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 19, 2003 8:28 am/pm

Thanks, Beth!

Just wait until you see Michael battling Darth Vader in a light saber duel!!

Posted by: Liv2CdWorld on Sep. 19, 2003 9:01 am/pm

Now THAT would be adorable!!
Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 21, 2003 1:40 am/pm

Tour of our cabin: Close-up still pictures

Here are stills from the videos, with additional notes about them - - more details than were said in the videos. First: The exterior...

Carol: "Welcome to Fort Wilderness!"
Michael: "Yeah!"
Rich: "Hooray!"

Carol: "We enjoyed it so much we wanted to make a video of where we stayed."

2518. It's not a room... it's actually a cabin!

You can rent these carts if you want to.

Here are our neighbors...

...up and down...

...our little loop street.

You can recycle plastic, glass, aluminum, and newspapers.

Disney provides a garden hose on the right side of the cabin where the air conditioner is...

...and another garden hose up on the wood deck.

When we first arrived there was an ant mound here. So we called about it and they cleaned it up.

This is a nightlight.

And that's where you plug in your electric cart, over there on the right front of the cabin, next to the driveway.

We cooked steaks, burgers, and a hot dog on the outdoor grill. When we first arrived it hadn't been cleaned -- there were ashes below the grill and charred bits of cooked food on the grill. So we called about that and it was quickly cleaned up. Thereafter it was kept clean without our having to ask for it to be cleaned.

Here's the outdoor picnic table that we never used. It was too hot and later too rainy. We brought a mosquito lantern but didn't use it because we wound up eating inside even when I cooked on the grill. We used a lot of mosquito spray, though!

Both exterior doors have yellow-colored lights to discourage the bugs from hanging around the lights.

Michael shows us how the plastic key card works: "First you put it in here..."

"...then you pull it out and lift the handle up."

These are magnets you can stick to the outside of the door if you need to use them: "No service required today." "Privacy please."

Next, we'll go inside! :coonskin:

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 21, 2003 2:11 am/pm

And now... the kitchen!

This is the entrance hallway: to the left for the bedroom and bathroom, to the right for the kitchen and living room.

Here's the kitchen!

Carol will give us a tour of the full-size kitchen.

You get a full-size refrigerator/freezer with an automatic icemaker that makes plenty of ice. You don't have to leave the room to get any.

And then you have a full fridge with room for butter, your vegetables, meat, drinks... plenty of room!

That's an awfully small-looking coffee pot! But it's not the only one that's here...

Look in the pantry, and they give you a bigger one! A ten-cup one - - so you have two coffeemakers. When you first arrive they give you complimentary coffee and creamer and sugar -- enough for two cups. They never gave us any more but the Mousekeeper probably saw that we brought our own, plus we never asked for more.

They give you plates, a platter, bowls, small plates, six mugs, six glasses (one not shown is in the dishwasher), a Pyrex measuring cup, and a casserole dish.

They also give you two saucepans, a skillet, a large pot to boil pasta in, a water kettle to heat up water, a colander, and lids.

A toaster, cutting board, the kitchen sink (so you can't say "they give you everything but the kitchen sink!")...

...a dishwasher, and you get a recycling container, a garbage container, dishwashing liquid for the sink, dishwasher detergent, a paper towel.

They provide forks, knives, spoons, a manual can opening, a tablespoon...

They give you steak knives, a larger knive you can use for cutting vegetables, plastic spatulas (for indoor use -- bring your own metal barbecue utensils for the grill), and a can opener/bottle opener.

This is an electric stove with a full oven and a glass cooktop. We're used to gas, but it works. There's a spoon holder shown on top of the cooktop -- Don't get it too near the heat when the stovetop's on!

The stove has a timer, and a microwave above it.

The microwave has a rotating tray inside so you don't have to turn your food to have it cook evenly.

The big gas oven has a tray inside it, too.

To the right of the stove, there's lots of storage space in the pantry.

Another look at the pantry. This upper one is to the right of the microwave.

And to the right of the pantry is the living room - - next up on our tour!

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 21, 2003 2:34 am/pm

And now... the living room!

The cabin's living room has a playback-only VCR (doesn't record, but it is possible to bring your own VCR to record on like we did, if you're handy swapping cables around).

There's one large-screen Sony TV in the living room (no TV in the bedroom anymore).

Notice on the remote that you can't punch in the channel you want. You're forced to rotate up or down until you come to the channel you want to see. The TV works the same way: you can't punch in which channel you want directly, only rotate up and down the channels -- although you can switch to "Video" to watch the VCR playback tapes. There's more storage under the VCR.

Here's a cute little table and chairs for children.

All windows have curtains that you can pull open or shut.

Here's our view out one of the living room windows.

Very cute, die-cut metal light fixtures here with rawhide stitching on the lampshade. The window to the right of it gives you a view towards the driveway, so we could keep an eye on our van. Under it is a desk with a phone, printed information, and more storage.

After you move the small coffee table out of the way to fit in between the children's sitting area and the phone, the (double bed size) Murphy bed can be folded down from the wall... provide more sleeping capacity than a normal-sized hotel room: two kids in the bunk beds, two adults in the Murphy bed, and two adults in the other double bed found in the bedroom.

Pillows are already on the bed when you fold it down. It folds up and hides away when you don't need it.

The cabinet to the right of the Murphy bed has a phone book for Orlando, but it is hard to get into that cabinet with the couch where it was, making more space for the kitchen table.

It's a very pleasant couch, but it does not open to make a bed.

There wouldn't be any room for it to convert to a bed when the Murphy bed is down.

And this is very cute: wood-like chairs and a nice bench at the dining table.

You get very easy to operate lights with push-button switches.

Feelin' tired yet? Let's check out the bedroom! It's up next...

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 21, 2003 3:15 am/pm

And now... the hallway to the bedroom!
Ha ha, fooled ya! We're not in the bedoom yet!

Look at this!

A Bambi and Thumper woodland scene picture is on the wood-panelled wall in the hallway leading to the bedroom.

Here we are in the bedroom. Oh, look! The Mousekeeper left a Mickey made out of towels on the bed.

She made it for us before our last day so we carefully preserved it when we went to sleep -- moving it carefully so we could put it back in the morning!

Michael loved the bunk beds and slept there every night.

Rich & Carol: "Which one did you sleep in, Michael: the top or the bottom one?"

Michael: "Both!"

Carol: "What's your pattern?"

Michael: "Down bunk... up bunk...

Michael: "down bunk... up bunk..."

Rich: "Did you switch every other night?"

Michael: "Ih." (That's "Yes" in Stitch's language.)

Rich: "Was it comfortable?"

Michael: "Uh, kind of."

Carol: "Was it fun?"

Michael: "Ih."

Rich: "That means 'Yes'?"

Michael: "Yes."

Rich: "Good."

Carol: "Watch out!"

Michael: "And I can touch the roof!"

Rich & Carol: "Yeah!"

Carol: "Look at the overhead light fixture: It's die-cut metal to match the ones in Wilderness Lodge."

Carol: "And you see the die-cut metal fixtures above the double bed."

Michael: "And this one's very comfy, too!"

Carol: "A very nice image of Mickey as George Washington crossing the Delaware is on the wall next to the bed."

Michael: (Whistles "Yankee Doodle.")

Carol: "You get a safe, iron, ironing board, a vacuum cleaner, wooden hangers, and a folding luggage holder in the bedroom closet (which doesn't have a door.)"

Carol: "On the shelf above are extra pillows and extra blankets and a bag to put laundry into."

Carol: To the left of the closet is another window where you can see your neighbors. "Hi, neighbor!" Here's where the hair dryer is. And you can turn the light over the mirror on and off right there."

Rich: "It has the same type of die-cut details which match the other light fixtures."

Carol: "It creates a very nice atmosphere."

Rich: "And no drawers down there, (below the dressing area desktop.) You could use them, because there's not much storage area in the bedroom. The beds are tall enough, however to slide your luggage underneath them.

However, there are drawers to the right of the closet with a top large enough to put a suitcase on top, or the contents of a suitcase.

Carol: "And you have your very own bedroom door out to the patio."

Michael: "Yeah, two doors!"

Rich: "Yeah, but that one can't be opened from the outside. It locks and doesn't have a place to use your key card."

Carol: "Over here is a native creature..."

Carol: "Hi, lizard! Looks like a little mini-alligator."

Rich: "We've seen rabbits -- bunny rabbits with cotton tails, squirrels..."

Carol: "We saw a rubber snake!"

Rich: "Yeah, a rubber snake."

Carol: "In the Pioneer Hall parking lot for the golf carts, some kid was playing practical jokes on people."

Coming up next, we're all going to the bathroom at once! And that's no joke...

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 21, 2003 3:43 am/pm

And now for something completely different...

...The Thermostat!

Located in the entrance hallway, it shows the temperature and lights up automatically when you press the up and down arrows to raise or lower the temperature in the cabin.

Carol: "Here is the bathroom. You've got switches for an exhaust fan, an overhead light..."

Michael: "And you also get yummy water!"

Michael didn't find anything wrong with the taste of the water at WDW, so we never needed to get Brita water purifier bottles. Good thing we didn't buy them!

Carol: "You get very nice, warm lighting."

Michael: "Yeah, OOoooooo..."

Carol: "Frosted glass in here."

Rich: "Two shelves..."

Carol: "And you get towels from down here. Look! Plenty of extra towels under the vanity top and storage space."

Michael: "And they're very fluffy, too!"

Carol: "Extra tissues, extra toilet paper..."

Rich: "Put your dirty towels in the tub when you're done."

Rich: "It's a big full tub with shower."

Michael: "Yup! The tub can turn into a shower."

Rich: "To the right of the sink is the toilet..."

Rich: "...and above it are wooden towel racks."

Michael: "...toilet, too."

Rich: "And out here in the entrance hallway we have another closet."

Michael: "And I don't know what it is. Is it a bathroom? Is it a..."

Rich: "Well, that's where you find that they provide a broom, and a duster with pole..."

Rich: "...and in the blue thing is a crib!"

Rich: "And a fire alarm/smoke detector is in the entrance hallway."

Michael: "Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep!"

Rich: "And that is our wilderness house!"

Carol: "The air conditioner's filter is under the hall closet."

Michael: "The hallway also has lights for the kitchen, too!"

But that's not all! We'll wrap up our tour, coming up next..."

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 21, 2003 4:06 am/pm

And thus ends the grand circle tour of our Fort Wilderness cabin...

Carol: "And when you're here staying at a Fort Wilderness cabin, they provide -- I guess -- charcoal."

Rich: "Well, when we were here -- why don't you take the camera and I'll tell that story."

Rich: "When we came we saw somebody who works here in a golf cart driving around and they happened to have a spare bag of charcoal briquettes for a barbecue..."

Michael: "I killed an ant!"

Rich: "Good! And there's also some ants in here so you can call and they will spray. We called two times and had the inside of the cabin sprayed twice -- they must have migrated into the cabin after the ant mound outside was disturbed.

"So, we asked (the CM with the bag of charcoal), 'You need to recycle those charcoal briquettes?" and she said, "Yeah, that's why I have them!" I said, "We can use them." So she gave them to us for free.

"So we used up that one and then bought extra just in case we'd use another bag, but it started to get rainy and we never even opened it. So we're going to leave this for the next people to use our wilderness home, for when it becomes their wilderness cabin."

Carol: "And so that's where we've been staying since last Friday and now we're checking out the Saturday after last Friday, so eight nights!"

Rich: "We arrived on Friday the 13th and it was good luck!"

Carol: "Yeah, and we're leaving the 21st of June, 2003."

Rich: "Goodbye, everybody!"

Carol: "So, bye-bye. We've had a great time -- and do we want to come back here?

Rich & Michael: "Yeah!"

Note: We shot the tour on our last morning, after packing up the van to go. We were too excited to tape a video when we first arrived!

I'll have more installments of our trip report, picking up with what we did after first settling in to our cabin -- coming up soon.

Any questions or comments? Please reply and I'll answer.

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 21, 2003 9:01 am/pm

Friday, 6/13/03: Fort Wilderness for a first-timer

This part of the trip report picks things up after we've arrived and checked into Fort Wilderness Resort.

First impression:
Our first impression of our cabin was Wow! This is just like living at WDW! This feeling continued through our entire 8 night/9 day stay there.

What we did first:
The first thing we did, as well as unloading everything out of our Minnie-van, was to call Mousekeeping about getting the barbecue grill cleaned and for them to take care of the ant mound next to the driveway. It was right near the rear passenger door and we didn't want any of us to step down from the van right into a mound of angry ants!

The best thing about staying in a Fort Wilderness cabin:
We loved having 2 rooms plus a bath and full kitchen. We didn't use the outdoor table because it was too hot and then turned quite rainy, but we used the outdoor grill for a few meals. Having your car or van parked literally a foot or two away from the cabin is super-convenient! We liked how the cabin had a raised wood deck as well as a paved driveway and walkway - - we didn't get any mud on us at all. The videocassette player is very handy to view tapes and I'm glad that the cables to the TV and that player are accessible because I brought our VCR from home in order to record some of the resort channel programming. That way whenever we want to feel like we're still staying at a Disney Resort, we can just watch the tape at home!
I also took the opportunity to play back what we shot in the camcorder and record it on blank tapes we brought from home to be able to record in our VCR. This created more recordable space on our camcorder tapes, although I did keep some as "masters" and didn't record over them.

First great idea: Hey, we can keep our "blue ice" solidly frozen for the trip home right in the kitchen freezer! No need to go find the community ice-making machine.

Home Away From Home Conveniences:
Other pluses were cooking on the stove and using the oven, microwave, outside grill, and our crockpot. Having the dishwasher for the supplied dishes, pots & pans, cups, bowls, etc. is a wonderful thing to have on vacation.

We swam in the Fort Wilderness pools for the first time. Both pools are huge, but they have no slides. The water is very warm and it is like taking a bath instead of a chilling pool -- and that feels great! Neither pool has a hot tub or whirlpool, though, but a CM at one of the pools told us to use the one at the Wilderness Lodge if it wasn't busy. I thanked her for the advice but didn't take her up on it because it clearly says on one of the provided maps of Fort Wilderness that the WL pools are only for WL Guests, just like the FW pools are only for FW Guests.

Location, Location, Location:
We loved our location in Loop 2500 - Cedar Circle. Our cabin was #2518, roughly halfway around the loop, on the left. It was a nice, quiet atmosphere and the great view included the woods and neighboring cabins, with many trees and bushes in between the cabins. According to the map there is a creek out behind where we were, but the forest is so thick we couldn't see it.

Click here to see an aerial view zoomed in to Fort Wilderness Resort, with our cabin approximately in the center of the picture (assuming MapQuest is working properly - - those overhead images sometimes get messed up). Cedar Circle is that rounded rectangle you see in the middle of the photo and our cabin was roughly in the middle of that top-mosted part of Cedar Circle. If you follow the Cedar Circle loop to the lower right, you'll see where it connects to the main road in that part of Fort Wilderness and you can also see a Disney bus stopped there at the corner. Yes, the bus stop (on both sides of that road) is that close to where we stayed, and yet we didn't hear any noises from the road at all.

It was already after 1 o'clock and we hadn't eaten lunch yet. Tonight we had Priority Seating (PS) at Chef Mickey's so we needed to eat something soon but not fill up too much because we didn't want to be stuffed for supper.

So what better place for lunch than the all-you-can-eat buffet at Trail's End?!?
Actually, we didn't overeat and just wanted something where we wouldn't have to wait for the food to be ready - - plus we wanted to explore more of Fort Wilderness before heading out to the parks. Hey, we're camping in the wilderness, you know?

So, we did what any good settler of the wilderness did in the days of the old west, and left the air-conditioned comforts of our plush cabin to take a short walk along the tree-lined, well-maintained street of Cedar Circle until we passed by the laundry building and pool on our right, crossed the main road and were soon at the covered bus stop. Us pioneers then boarded the air-conditioned bus and sped off to the Settlement depot, where we got out and mozied along towards Pioneer Hall. We stopped along the way to literally stop and smell the roses, as well as to look inside the RV on display near there and spot our first peacock of the trip. Yes, they sure can be noisy! Glad we didn't have any back where the cabins are.

As we walked past Pioneer Hall I pointed out to DS Michael that it was the location of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue which we'd attend later in our vacation. Then we entered Trail's End restaurant and were seated right away. We enjoyed eating there: the food is good and the atmosphere make you think Davy Crockett might walk in at any minute. In fact, Crockett's Tavern is right next door and can be seen from inside Trail's End!

Carol made a note to come back one night for the peal 'n eat shrimp they serve at suppertime. Our lunch, although tasty and quick, cost $31.55... Maybe we should have tried out our wilderness kitchen!

We're merrily on our way...
After a fine meal in this buffeteria we waited at the Settlement bus stop for a bus to take us to the Disney-MGM Studios, but after a bit we decided to take a bus back to our cabin and drive our van to D-MGM instead because we thought that would be quicker and more convenient.

We decided to go back and use our own van for a number of reasons. First, the bus to D-MGM was taking its sweet time in getting there and meanwhile we saw many busses come and go which would have taken us back to our cabin immediately. Second, we knew we'd have to reverse the procedure when we were done at D-MGM - - get on a bus after perhaps waiting for it, then going to the Settlement Depot at Fort Willderness and taking another bus to our cabin. Third, it was already 2:10 pm when we left Trail's End and we wouldn't have much time in the park. Fourth, we had Priority Seating that night at Chef Mickey's, so we didn't want to be late getting there because of two bus rides possibly delaying us.

It was very quick to get back to the cabin, then hop in our van, and then arrive at D-MGM with no problem.

Next report: Disney-MGM Studios for the first day of WDW's last Star Wars Weekend of 2003

Any questions or comments? Reply and I'll be happy to answer.

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 24, 2003 1:42 am/pm

After lunch on Friday, 6/13/03: Disney-MGM Studios for the first day of WDW's last Star Wars Weekend of 2003

We pick up this part of the trip report after leaving Fort Wilderness following a late lunch.

D-MGM: The first theme park of this trip
It was 3 o'clock when we parked our Minnie-Van in the Donald Music 51 section of the parking lot at the Disney-MGM Studios. Star Wars theme music was playing in the park, which could be heard when approaching the entry gate from where we were dropped off from the parking lot tram.

We saw the large banner for the Star Wars Weekend to our right as we approached the baggage check area -- it featured Mickey and Yoda dressed in Jedi robes, ready to take on the dark side of the force together, back to back with their light sabers activated.

Since we got to D-MGM so late that Friday afternoon, there were only two shows left that day of the Jedi Training Academy, the big Star Wars event that Michael was most interested in (see below). Noticing that we had some time before the start of the next show, I asked around and finally found where I could buy Pal Mickey.

Pal Mickey Quest
We found Pal Mickey at Celebrity 5 & 10 and I immediately picked one from the shelves where many of them were displayed and brought it to the CM at the cash register. I had been wanting a Pal Mickey of my own ever since I first had him for an hour on our previous trip and it only took me 16 minutes after parking our Minnie-van in the lot at D-MGM before I had bought my own Pal Mickey and had him in my hands.

We read the directions, switched Pal Mickey on, and left the store, heading towards the direction of Star Tours. More about Pal Mickey coming up!

Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars!
Not only were we there for the first day of the last of this year's Star Wars Weekends, we also went there on Saturday and Sunday, too. Why? Well, that would be jumping ahead in the story, so you'll have to wait for me to tell you and/or figure it out for yourself before I get there.

Michael is a huge Star Wars fan so he was very excited to be attending Star Wars Weekend at WDW. The are usually take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday on 4 or 5 weekends in May and June and this year it was held May 16-18, May 23-25, May 30-31/June 1, June 6-8, and June 13-15. Many actors from the Star Wars movies appear each weekend. When we were there Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett) and Michonne Bourriague (Aurra Sing) were available for autographs, but Michael was more interested in the costumed Star Wars Characters so we didn't get in any of the lines to meet them personally.

Who here wants to become a Jedi?
The event that Michael was most excited about was the Jedi Training Academy, in which several kids are chosen by a Jedi Master at this event many times throughout the day to come up on stage, wear the Jedi robes, and learn from their Jedi Master on the proper use of a light saber, including how to learn the moves they'll need to use when they come face to face with Darth Vader. At the end of each event, each youngster actually tests their newly-acquired skills one-on-one against Darth Vader himself.

You don't have to be a kid to want to take part in that! So you can imagine how eager Michael was to get picked for that event. We arrived at the stage set up next to Star Tours and got a place near the front, where Michael would be seen. Carol and I stayed back a bit, as all the adults were instructed to move back and leave room for the kids up front. We did our best to cheer Michael on as he tried to be picked to be among the lucky kids to become a Jedi Padawan -- a Jedi Master-In-Training -- and get a chance to battle Darth Vader. But maybe some Friday the 13th bad luck was coming our way, because he didn't get picked for that show.

Michael was very disappointed, so we entered Tatooine Traders to cool off, calm down, and let Michael buy some Star Wars toys with the money he brought from home for this.

Pal Mickey thinks we're at the Magic Kingdom!
Note that I hadn't brought Pal Mickey in through the D-MGM entrance gate because of buying it inside the park at Celebrity 5 & 10, so that probably explains the weird behavior he exhibited to us at first. Pal Mickey seemed to think he was in the Magic Kingdom and not at D-MGM because when he was triggered inside that park he was telling me about things in the Magic Kingdom! At one point when I was walking around D-MGM near Indiana Jones he told me about the Haunted Mansion!
:ghostface: LOL

Apparently he defaults to the Magic Kingdom when not reset automatically by receiving some sort of "You are entering the D-MGM Studios" signal (since he was turned off when he was delivered to the store and I turned him on while already inside D-MGM). I had a very nice CM at one of the Tatooine Traders cash registers do the reset bit for me and he worked fine after that even without having to leave the park and going back inside through the entrance gate. So talk of the Cast Members being able to do a "reset download" on Pal Mickey seems to be true. My guess is that he's not really downloading much information, just where he is and perhaps the current time.

So, it seems like some of the same infra-red codes are shared in the different parks, and Mickey responds based on him "knowing" which park he is in.

Shopping at Tatooine Traders
At Tatooine Traders we bought two t-shirts (one for Michael and one for me, Carol didn't want one) of Mickey &  Yoda and the Star Wars Weekend logo, which looked exactly like the large sign at the D-MGM package check and entry area. Michael also bought two small Star Wars toys. The total was $61.77 and the time was 3:44 pm -- time to try out to become a Jedi agaiin!

Jedi Training Academy: Take 2
With the Star Wars theme inspiring us to greatness, we once again cheered for Michael as he tried to be picked by the Jedi Master to be one of the lucky ones to go up on stage and learn how to be a Jedi Master. But once again it was not to be. Michael wasn't picked for either show that day. But we were all willing to come back to D-MGM the next day and hopeful that Michael would be picked then.

This time, we headed to Backlot Express to cool off and get some drinks. It cost us $7.38 for one large Coke, one large Sprite and one bottle of water -- but it was worth it. Did I tell you it was hot, very sunny, and there was no shade at the Star Wars stage? Well, let's just say we were literally sweating it out each time Michael tried to get picked for the Jedi event.

While we relaxed and regrouped in Backlot Express, Michael enjoyed playing a Star Wars video game (75 cents).

If it's Friday the 13th, it must be Tower of Terror
I was able to do one of the things that I had wanted to do that day. Since it was Friday the 13th, I thought it would be neat to ride the Tower of Terror. Well, I rode it and it was great! This was only my second time riding it with the newer ToT4 programming -- the first time was on our last trip in April 2003 -- and before that it had been a few years since I rode it when it still had the original programming. I thought it would be too intense for Michael and besides, he didn't want to ride it. He actually went with Carol and me through the pre-show of the attraction and through the queue in the boiler room, but the two of them took the "chicken" exit before boarding the "haunted" elevator, then waited for me in the gift shop.

It was fun riding ToT on Friday the 13th, especially with the "13" motif woven into the attraction. Did you realize that when the "B" on your elevator door opens up after the ride is over, it splits in half with "|" on the left door and "[/b]3[/b]" on the right door? That's right -- the Basement is also floor 13!

Next report: Chef Mickey's!

Posted by: Ciavobella on Sep. 25, 2003 10:20 am/pm

Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars!

Were you singing a number made famous by my favorite lounge singer? :clap:

Enjoying reading about your trip into the wilderness. You'all hurry back with more now ya hear.  :coonskin:


Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 25, 2003 10:26 am/pm

---------------------QUOTE BEGIN-------------------

Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars!

Were you singing a number made famous by my favorite lounge singer? :clap:

Yup! :nod:

Enjoying reading about your trip into the wilderness. You'all hurry back with more now ya hear.  :coonskin:


Thank you, Karen! I have to hurry and finish writing my trip report from our last trip because we leave to return to WDW next week -- we'll be there a week from today!

Posted by: Liv2CdWorld on Sep. 26, 2003 11:41 am/pm

Great report!

How do the kids "try" to be picked?  Do they have to yell, jump up and down? LOL

Just cursious! :D

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 26, 2003 5:05 am/pm

---------------------QUOTE BEGIN-------------------
Great report!

How do the kids "try" to be picked?  Do they have to yell, jump up and down? LOL

Just cursious! :D


I could give you the secret -- but that would be telling!  :eyebrow:

Actually, you have the right idea - - but we were given many other tips, too.

I'll fill you in... all in good time (in either the next report or the one after it).

Stay "tooned"! And thanks for the kind words. :)

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 29, 2003 2:01 am/pm

Koster trip report: Friday night, 6/13/03

I pick up the report after we've left the Disney-MGM Studios and are heading to Chef Mickey's for supper.

The worst thing today: Michael not getting picked at the Star Wars event plus the heat and no shade at the Star Wars stage.

The best thing today:
Buying Pal Mickey and touring D-MGM with his jokes and advice, then bringing him along with us to Chef Mickey’s for supper.

Chef Mickey’s
We drove to Disney’s Contemporary Resort in our Minnie-Van and parked directly in front of the Contemporary Tower at the nearest empty space which was in one of the rows furthest away from the building. After locking the van and taking a few steps towards the resort I ran back and got Pal Mickey, because I had almost forgotten to bring him inside with us. You see, when I was driving I unclipped him from my belt to make it easier to put on the seatbelt and then in the excitement of going to our favorite Character meal location I didn’t think to pick him up again. No time lost, however, as I quickly trotted back to my DW Carol and DS Michael.

As we got into the elevator I thought at first that Disney had removed the voices in it. But then Minnie spoke to us, which made me smile. We arrived at Chef Mickey’s right on time for our 8:45 pm Priority Seating. When I had called to make the PS at home I was a bit disappointed that the earliest they could make it was so late at night, but actually the timing worked out great for us. We wouldn’t be able to go to both Chef Mickey’s and the Fort Wilderness campfire program (that night’s movie: Beauty and the Beast), but we were glad to be eatin’ with the Mouse. After getting our picture taken and then waiting a bit for our table to be ready, we were seated in the part of the restaurant that is closest to the desserts. Well, that sure is convenient!

Our CM waitperson was Annie P. who asked us how we were. When we said we were a bit tired she confided that she was, too. That might be one drawback to getting such a late seating… although her service was fine overall, she later forgot to bring Carol and me more beer when we asked her to. We chalked it up to the lateness in the evening and her being tired and decided to cancel the order for more beer when it still hadn’t arrived when our bill came.

Although we had arrived feeling tired and Michael was still feeling dejected at not being picked at the Jedi Training Academy event two times, the fun atmosphere and goings-on at Chef Mickey’s eventually cheered all of us up and we felt better. The Characters certainly did their part to brighten our spirits. It was fun interacting with them, especially letting them see our Pal Mickey. Minnie was very cute watching the puppet show Michael put on for her using Pal Mickey as a puppet. That seemed delighted by Michael’s antics! She also acted charmed when I kissed her on her Toony-gloved hand when she first came to our table. Chip was feeling very mischievous when he came to our table. When Michael showed him Pal Mickey, he was very interested and then clipped it to his apron and tried to nonchalantly walk away with our Pal Mickey! Michael soon convinced him to give it back, with Chip first pretending that he didn’t have anything on him.

Donald Duck stayed out in the entrance area of the restaurant, where we’ve seen Goofy hanging out on previous meals at Chef Mickey’s (this time Goofy mingled with all the diners at their tables). Michael and I approached Donald and got a picture with him. We also showed Pal Mickey to him and he didn’t seem impressed. That Donald! I told him that maybe one day they’d make a Pal Donald, but then I said perhaps the reason why Disney hasn’t made one yet is because nobody would understand any of the tips and jokes Pal Donald would be telling them. It was fun teasing Donald this way and seeing his reaction to this (pretending to be upset) but I got the last word in on the subject… Donald was speechless.
:hush: :wink2:

The food was good as always at Chef Mickey’s. We like going there for supper as well as breakfast. With Carol and I having beer, the bill for the three of us came to $70.80 plus tip. That’s not counting the $21.30 (including tax) we paid for the refrigerator magnet photo and keychain photo of us that we also bought. What happened to just being able to buy a nice-sized photo alone without all those other things in the package we really didn’t want?

I made sure Michael took some of the cheesy mashed potatoes along with him pizza, and Carol & I did, too. We had heard how good they were from other people’s reports. Carol and I loved them, but Michael didn’t care for the mashed potatoes with cheese blended into them. Oh well, can’t blame Mickey for trying to share his cheese with us.

Another dish we tried was the macaroni and cheese. Just before our trip we had seen a show on the Food Network which showed how all the Disney chefs had done taste tests with kids to decide the one way that all of the mac & cheese would be made at all of the WDW restaurants and the high marks the kids gave the winning recipe. Well, Michael didn’t think the “kid-tested” mac & cheese was anything special and prefers Kraft macaroni and cheese which we make at home.

The desserts were great and besides having brownies, cake and making our own ice cream sundaes with the toppings we desired we were disappointed by one thing. On that same Food Network TV show, the desserts at Chef Mickey’s were featured. The show gave the impression Chef Mickey’s had new design-your-own desserts, such as one with a small, edible Sorcerer Mickey hat and other fun things. Well, that type of designer desserts were nowhere to be found. Has anybody seen that at Chef Mickey’s this year, other than on the TV show? I wonder if it was a made-for-TV-only set of desserts. Not seeing those desserts reminded me of when I was a kid and my Dad and I went to Expo ’67 in Montreal, Canada (kind of like a small World’s Fair, especially after having attended both years of the New York World’s Fair in 1964-65). When we went to the USSR exhibit there I was disappointed to find out that the free samples of caviar I had seen kids eating at that pavilion on one of my favorite kids TV shows was just something dreamed up for that show and wasn’t a normal part of what you got to experience at that attraction. Did the same thing happen at Chef Mickey’s… are the “designer desserts” something that was just for the TV show – or have others gotten these treats for themselves there and we just missed out somehow? Reply if you know!

It was quite late when we were done with our meal and finished paying the bill at 10:10 pm. The Characters had gone to bed already, so we were told, and the music had been switched from up and peppy to soft and get-out-of-here.

It was nice to be able to just get into our Minnie-Van and drive directly back to our cabin, rather than taking a boat from the Contemporary’s marina over to the Fort Wilderness marina, then walking to the Settlement bus depot and waiting for a bus there, then taking it to our bus stop and walking the rest of the way to our cabin. Sometimes having your own transportation is the best.

Now it’s off to bed, off to bed!

We put Michael to bed in one of the bunks and then closed the door to the bedroom to have some privacy in the living room/kitchen. That was a very nice luxury and felt homey. We’re used to a king-size bed at home so Carol and I decided to alternate sleeping in the double-sized Murphy bed in the living room and the double bed in the bedroom in order to give us more room. Tonight Carol picked the Murphy bed for herself and watched the cabin’s TV while relaxing in bed before drifiting off to sleep.

Late Night Shopping with Rich the Groceryman

Because we had decided to go straight to check-in when we arrived earlier that day instead of stopping in Kissimmee at a Publix to pick up some groceries – and because we didn’t have any breakfast items and I wasn’t sleepy yet – I decided to go grocery shopping while Carol and Michael slept. I drove to the Publix that I had gotten directions for, the one closest to Fort Wilderness. But when I got there, the store was dark! It hadn’t gone out of business, but simply wasn’t open 24 hours. I hadn’t thought of that! I’m used to 24-hour supermarkets where I live. It was very late at night so when I couldn’t immediately find the Kissimmee Wal-Mart (plus I was wondering at that point if perhaps it would be not open 24 hours and would be closed like the Publix supermarket), I headed back the way I came, looking for another grocery store that would be open. I knew Goodings at the CrossRoads shopping center was open 24 hours, but that would be my last resort because their prices are so high. Just north of the CrossRoads shopping center I saw a Winn Dixie Marketplace, but it too was closed for the night, so I kept going. Highway 535/Apopka Vineland Road became “Wickham Way” and after driving miles through a fancy residential area southeast of the tony town of Windermere while thinking to myself “surely there’s a 24-hour supermarket someplace nearby with all of these nice houses,” I turned right on Sand Lake Road, recognizing it as a main road that connects with interstate 4. Soon afterwards, even before I got to I-4, I found many shopping centers along that road including one with a 24-hour Albertsons. Hooray! I was able to find everything on our list and headed to check-out. The time: just after 2 am. The check-out clerk: apologetic that it was too late for me to buy the 6-pack of beer in my shopping cart. Dang! I wasn’t used to the no late-night-liquor law because we don’t have such restrictions where I live near New Orleans. I guess that’s why Pleasure Island closes late at night, too, instead of staying open all night like French Quarter bars.

Oh well, he understood that I wasn’t trying to pull a fast one on him and that I was just not from those parts, so I just bought the other things in my cart: food which we’d cook in our cabin’s kitchen and outdoor grill, milk and other non-beer drinks, matches for lighting the grill, and lighter fluid. I came back 4 days later and got a refund on the lighter fluid because it turned out that the type of charcoal briquets that the Fort Wilderness CM gave me would light just using a match. Chalk it up to not having camped in decades!

I drove back to the cabin and quietly put away all the groceries, then headed to the bedroom to join the others in dreamland. It was a great first day (and into the next day for me! ) at Walt Disney World, but certainly time to catch some Z’s to be able to get up bright and early on Saturday to answer Mickey’s wake-up call.

Next: Back to D-MGM for more Star Wars!

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 29, 2003 6:12 am/pm

Saturday, 6/14/03: More Star Tours Weekend and Gary's advice at Trail's End

Also in this report:

Sunday, 6/15/03: Sunday Mass, Last chance at Star Tours Weekend, Best Burgers in WDW, and "My Little Buttercup" on Father's Day at Whispering Canyon Cafe

We all slept well Friday night and awoke to Mickey's early wake-up call. We enjoyed being able to pad about in our PJs, gradually getting over our grogginess while eating a pleasant breakfast in our own kitchen. Thanks to my grocery shopping the night before (actually, early that morning), we each had our favorites: Michael with his chocolate Eggo waffles, Carol with scrambled eggs, me with my microwaved pancakes, our favorite brand of coffee we brought from home for Carol and me, plus all of us also had orange juice and something I picked up which wasn't on the list: bacon! Mmmm, mmmm! It sure is great to smell the aroma and taste bacon out in the woods.

Disney-MGM Studios, Take Two!

It was Extra Magic Hour (EMH, or what used to be referred to as "Early Entry" day) at D-MGM today, so we didn't take too long eating breakfast and getting dressed. We also didn't fool around with Disney transporation, but hopped in our Minnie-Van and quickly arrived at the D-MGM parking lot, where we were waved through with a smile by the CM at the toll plaza, without having to pay for parking thanks to the printed sign Disney gave us which showed we were Fort Wilderness Resort Guests. We made a note that we parked in Goofy Film, row 30, and hopped aboard the parking lot tram.

Jedi Training Academy: Again and again and again and...
The weather today was hot and very sunny! :devil:

The funniest thing today was being at D-MGM right when it opened and having the Storm Troopers atop the entry gate area point their blasters at us in frustration while Michael and I taunted them from below.

There were 9 Jedi Training Academy shows scheduled for that day and Michael tried out for most of them, but still didn't get picked.

We all vowed to give it one more try the next day. Even though Michael had said in April that he wanted to ride Star Tours again on this trip, he didn't feel like it any of the times we were at the Disney-MGM Studios this time. We made it as far along in the queue as where the droids are constructing things before he decided he wasn't in the mood to ride it, so we didn't force him and none of us rode. Instead, when the doors to our star speeder opened, we just kept walking all the way through it and exited out the other side. It turned out what Michael did want to do was to go shopping again in Tattooine Traders, where he spend $30 (plus tax) of his own money to buy a Star Wars starfighter toy. Since it was early in the day and we didn't feel like lugging it all around the park, we opted to have it delivered to Fort Wilderness where we picked it up the next day, Sunday.


We missed our 11:30 am PS for the Sci-Fi Dine In Theater Restaurant because of again trying to get Michael picked for the Jedi Training Academy, but once again, he wasn't one of the lucky ones. Instead, in between try-outs for the Jedi Training Academy we had lunch at 1:04 pm at the Backlot Express, where we all shared a turkey sandwich with carrots, a cheeseburger with carrots, and 2 bottles of water between the three of us. This works out well for us because Michael doesn't eat enough to get his own adult-sized meal and Carol & I don't need all the calories of eating an entire adult-sized meal. So sharing among us is great! Lunch cost $17.86. Later in the day we had dessert: we bought 3 kinds of Disney ice cream from an outdoor vending cart at the plaza in front of the Big A-- Hat (huge Sorcerer Mickey hat landmark) near the intersections of Hollywood & Vine & Sunset.

After trying out for the Jedi show one more time and not getting picked, we all decided to take a break from Star Wars and the heat. It was Michael's good idea to head back to Fort Wilderness and go swimming. So after driving back to our cabin and changing, all of us walked over to the nearby pool after spraying ourselves to ward off mosquitos. I kept my shoes and socks on for the short hike because it would have been too far in my flip-flops. When we got to the pool, Michael remembered that all of us had forgotten to bring his big floating "noodle" out of the cabin, so I volunteered to retrieve it.

When I got back, I took off my shoes and socks and joined Carol and Michael in the pool. Even though it lacks the man-made theming of the other Deluxe and Home Away From Home Resorts at WDW, the pool was very relaxing with its own natural theming, there amid the pine trees. The pool itself, while it doesn't have a slide or diving board, is huge and very warm -- almost like a giant hot tub!

Michael wanted a lifejacket, so I walked around the pool to see if there was a lifeguard (there wasn't) who I could ask. One of the Guests advised me to use the house phone near the pool to ask Guest Services, so I did. While on the phone with them I got bitten on my foot. Ouch!

Note to self: When spraying for mosquitos at Fort Wilderness before going to the pool, next time take off the shoes and socks first. My feet and ankles were the only part of me that I didn't spray with mosquito repellant, and it didn't take them long to find that "tender part" as the hound dogs say in "The Aristocats."

On our way back to the cabin, we popped in the laundry building and gave it the once-over. It sure felt nice and cool in there after being out in the hot sun.

I checked out the prices on the washers and dryers: 8 quarters in each per load. We had come prepared with rolls of quarters for this task as well as laundry detergent from home, so I was all set for when I'd do the laundry on Monday night.

Other Star Wars Events

After drying off and changing back into clean clothes, we returned to the Disney-MGM Studios. Even though Michael still didn't get picked to train to be a Jedi that day, we did have fun at the other Star Wars events that weekend. We met many Star Wars Characters and had our photo taken with each of them -- even R2D2! We enjoyed the corny jokes of the Hyperspace Hoopla, presented at the same Main Event Stage next to Star Tours that is also where the Jedi Training Academy events were held.

Great Movie Ride: Star Wars exhibit here, too!

We also enjoyed seeing the chess table prop used in Star Wars while inside on line at the Great Movie Ride. The first time we got in line for that attraction it felt kind of hot inside the place and it didn't help matters that the line was moving very slowly. We never did make it farther than the chess table on exhibit that time, because it was announced that the attraction had broken down (or maybe it was because the air conditioning had broken down?) and we all had to leave. When we came back later it was literally cool to breeze through the line (puns intended) and go on the ride.

Plans for the last day of Star Wars Weekend

Since we knew we'd be coming back for more the next morning, we made plans to not only try out for the Jedi Training Academy again but to see the Star Wars parade and get into the ABC Theater for "Behind the Force," a screening of the behind-the-scenes movie about the making of Star Wars, both of which were great.

Supper at Trail's End

On Saturday night we arrived back at Fort Wilderness too late for that night's campfire movie ("Tarzan") and we were too tired to cook our own meal. So we took the bus to Trail's End buffeteria for a late supper.

The CM at the entrance to Trail's End said it would be about a ten minute wait for a table. All the seats near the podium were already filled with other Guests waiting to get a table, so I asked if we could wait outside on the porch's rocking chairs and they said that would be fine, they'd come out and announce when the table was ready.

It felt great to relax in the rocking chairs on the Crockett's Tavern porch. I even cat-napped! Well, even though we had been told that we could wait out there for our table and that they'd find us to tell us when it was ready, they never did. Turns out we waited an extra 20 minutes there on the porch after our table was ready. Although it was pleasant, we were tired and hungry! Carol got up to go ask about our table and they apologized to her for not finding us. When we finally were seated at our table Gary W., our CM waitperson, saw how weary, tired and cranky we were. We told him not only about the mix-up which caused us to be waiting for our table for so long, but also about our bad luck in not getting Michael picked at Star Wars in all the heat two days in a row, even though he had tried his best many times and Carol and I had done whatever we could to help get him noticed. So Gary put Michael "in charge of our table" (which brightened him up) and told us he'd have a special treat for him as well as another one for Carol and me at the end of the meal.

And Gary sat down next to Michael and gave him advice on getting picked the next day as well as one of his special good luck wishes.

Gary told us that his good luck wishes always work, so we hoped they would help Michael get picked on the last day of Star Wars Weekend the next day. Gary's tips included:
  • wear a colorful shirt
  • jump up and down like you're trying to get your teacher's attention because have to go to the bathroom
  • do your best to get the Jedi Master's attention, including make eye contact
What were the special treats Gary had for us at the end of our meal? He brought us two complimentary desserts: a delicious chocolate brownie for Michael (I know because Michael insisted Carol and I taste it, too) and a large serving of strawberry shortcake for Carol and me! The strawberry shortcake looked and tasted just as great as the ones we've had at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue many times before. Hmmmm... two eating places, one kitchen... you do the math!

We thanked Gary for his tips and good wishes then left in a much better mood, hoping it would all work out for Michael. We paid $43.11 for the food and drinks and left Gary a very good tip for cheering us up and his great advice.

It was 10:23 pm when we walked outside, still tired but with much brighter spirits. We got back to our cabin and into bed as quick as we could because we wanted to go to early Mass the next morning.

Sunday morning, 6/15/03

After Mickey woke us up with a phone call the next morning, we had a quick breakfast and got dressed, then drove to Sunday Mass. Once again, the weather today was very hot and sunny. At Mary Queen of the Universe Shrine we prayed for other people, prayed for various things, and we also prayed for it to happen if it was God's will that Michael get picked at Star Wars Weekend that day. After some free donuts (for all of us) and some more coffee (for Carol and me) in their fellowship hall, we left a donation and did some quick shopping in their gift shop: a Joshua "Veggie-Tales" DVD and a shrine magnet (total: $23.94).

D-MGM: Take our backpack, please!

After church we drove straight to D-MGM to try out for the Jedi Training Academy again. When it was time to pick another group of kids for the Jedi show, Michael wasn't lucky enough to be one of them yet again. In between shows we got pictures and autographs with Star Wars Characters at the various meet and greet locations. It was so hot and sunny that I bought us a water mist fan ($17). Michael also bought one more Star Wars toy: a red light saber ($10.65) so he and I could have "good side of the Force" vs. "dark side of the Force" battles. While waiting for the next Jedi show to begin, we discovered that we no longer had our backpack!

Carol stayed with Michael while I retraced our steps, thinking we must have left it at one of the meet and greet places, setting it down when all 3 of us got into a picture. Well, nobody had seen it and I couldn't find it anywhere. I returned to Carol and Michael to tell them the bad news. We all said a prayer that it be found, and I stayed with Michael while Carol went to Guest Services at the entrance to the park to ask if it had been brought there. It takes a long time to walk from Star Tours all the way back to the the entrance and before Carol returned the morning Star Wars parade was announced and came right by where we were standing. We were at the Main Event Stage next to Star Tours, right near where the parade goes behind a large gate to backstage.

It turns out that Carol was able to see the parade when it was at the other end of the park and she joined us when it was over, backpack in hand! It had been picked up at one of the meet and greet locations, as we had thought, and brought to Guest Services near the stroller rental "gas station" at the entrance. We were all very thankful to get it back!

Who here wants to become a Jedi Knight?

With the parade over, the music started for another Jedi Training Academy show. I reminded Michael to try and do what Gary had suggested, including jumping up and down like he had to go to the bathroom. Michael told me, "I do have to go to the bathroom!" I asked him if he could hold it for a while, since they were about to pick more kids in just a minute and he thought he could.

Well, Michael followed all of Gary's advice and that time he finally got picked! It was such a relief that he finally got picked -- and we all enjoyed when he was having his turn up on stage very much. Maybe it was a sign of good things to come when we were directed to park at row 44 of the Mickey - Stage area that morning in the D-MGM parking lot!

The Force is strong with many of you!

How many times did it take before Michael got picked? Well, when we first got to D-MGM on Friday afternoon there were two Jedi Training Academy shows left that day which Michael tried to be picked for, and then two other days that weekend had 9 shows each day. We forget how many of all of those Michael tried out for, but it was probably around 8. In the heat. In the sun. Thanks to Gary's advice, Michael's perseverance, and lots of prayers it turned out to be well worth it.

Besides the great experience of learning how to become a Jedi Knight Apprentice and battling Darth Vader in a light saber duel, Michael also was presented with a certificate and a bag containing a prize: Star Wars trading cards! We've played many a game with those cards, each time remembering what it took to earn them and the great fun it was when it finally happened.

Michael says learning from the Jedi Master and fighting Darth Vader with a light saber was pretty easy. He enjoyed it very much and we were very pleased to be cheering Michael on. It certainly was one of the highlights of our trip.

For more about Star Wars Weekends at WDW, see the "Star Wars Weekends at Disney-MGM Studios" article by Mary Albright in the < July 3, 2003 edition of PassPorter News on >. Also see the report about Star Wars Weekends on < AllEarsNet >.

Best Burgers in WDW!

We were ready to eat lunch and so we left the Disney-MGM Studios and headed back to our cabin for a celebratory meal of grilled hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and baked beans. Those were the best cheeseburgers in all of Disney World!

After lunch, we drove in our Minnie-van to the Bike Barn to add air to the tires of Michael's bike and get him a life vest. The life vest is free for the length of your stay when you're a Fort Wilderness Resort Guest. At 5 pm we were shopping for more groceries at the Winn Dixie Marketplace I had driven past the other night when it was closed. It was 5:40 pm when we paid for our groceries and it was starting to rain, so we put everything into the Minnie-Van quickly and returned to Fort Wilderness and put it all away inside our cabin. We were hurrying because we had Priority Seating for 6 o'clock at Whispering Canyon Cafe for supper!

Our favorite eating places this trip:

Besides enjoying the meals we prepared in the Fort Wilderness cabin, we also enjoyed eating out at Walt Disney World. We ate at Whispering Canyon Cafe, we enjoyed a Character meal at Chef Mickey's as we always do, we enjoyed the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue again, and we tried a Character meal at Cinderella's Royal Table Dinner in the Grand Floridian which was very nice. Cindy is apparently better in the kitchen than Mickey because we felt the food she made available at her buffet was better than Mickey's, plus after dinner Michael said the GF had the best pizza in all of Walt Disney World. I was glad to see Big Bertha and hear her operating again, although I noticed that the huge mechanized pipe organ didn't seem to have any moving parts (such as hitting the drums, for instance) so I wondered if what I was hearing was a recording from Big Bertha's earlier days.

Whispering Canyon Cafe: Sunday night, 6/15/03, Father's Day Dinner for Rich

It's a kookoo nutty kind of a place, but Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge Resort serves great food and it is raucous, fun and rowdy in there! There were no Disney Characters -- just a wait staff trained to be fun-loving and engage the restaurant every few minutes in antics: the children in antics, the adults in antics singly and in groups and en masse.

Whispering Canyon Cafe is not for the humor challenged and is not for those who have a tough time seeing the humor in oneself. It is also not for those who don't want to get picked/asked to do something in front of others. It's also not sedate or quiet or well-mannered -- that's part of it's charm.

My Little Buttercup for Father's Day!

Before being seated, all the men in the place were told to gather together in the dining hall. That day was Father's Day and I figured they were going to do something special to honor the Dads in the restaurant ( Wrong! ) so I walked over and joined the other male diners standing there. We were instructed to form one line and that we'd be doing something special for all the women who were there that day. There were so many men that the line stretched from one end of the place to the other. Carol got out our camcorder and recorded all the action as all of us men were instructed on how to sing "My Little Buttercup" -- complete with dance steps and gestures! I guess we all did pretty good, because everyone gave us a lot of applause when we were done.

When that was over we were brought to our table. Our CM waitperson told us his name was Charlie Horse, and he was a lot of fun.

Mmmmm, mmmmm!

Carol and I loved the food there. We ordered a salad and split it and also had "Jeffro's pork chops" and the skillet dinner. Carol enjoyed a margarita and I thought my vanilla milkshake was so yummy that I got a refill on it. Michael was bummed out at first because they didn't serve cheese pizza, but he ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with fries instead. After he got a taste of my milkshake he wanted one, too: his was a cookies and cream milkshake. His mood improved soon enough and he liked the place and what went on there. Michael was involved in two different pony races, using wooden horses, and they had the kids shouting so much he got a little hoarse himself!

Michael and I found the "secret way" to the restrooms and those are just as well-themed as the rest of the resort is, including the music they play in there.

Shenanigans a-plenty!

The food's good and there's plenty of it. Folks into the humor of the place will enjoy it a lot. If you are missing a condiment (such as ketchup), or a particular color crayon for coloring at your table just ask your wait person and your fellow diners will....well, that would be telling!  

I'm also not going to tell you everything about what happened at the table next to us when the man insisted on drinking Pepsi instead of Coke. I will let you in on this much: his female companion's face turned bright red when he was brought a bucket full of that "P-word" stuff!

The total with tax came to $66.24 and it was well worth it. I think Charlie Horse was pleased with his tip, too.

Another bag lost!

After dinner we started out into the lobby to do some exploring, and I reached to get out my camcorder to take pictures of the babbling brook that starts in the lobby before heading outside to the waterfall and pool.

Oh, no! Where's my camera bag? We had just lost our backpack earlier that day and now the camera was lost. I told Carol and Michael to keep looking around the lobby while I went back to the restaurant. I asked Charlie Horse if he had seen my camera bag and he said he hadn't, but let me look under out table where I had placed it. When it didn't turn up there we went to the restaurant's front desk and asked there. That's where it was! The CM who cleared the table saw it and brought it there right away. Whew!

Luckily, none of us misplaced anything on the rest of the trip. Strange that we almost lost two things on Sunday the 15th rather than on Friday the 13th! Then again, if we had lost those things on Friday the 13th, maybe we wouldn't have found them again...

With camcorder and camera bag retrieved, I took pictures of us in the lobby and then we window shopped in the Wilderness Lodge gift shop. We enjoyed the many wilderness-themed things they have in there, including frontier rifles and guns, Davy Crockett coonskin caps, pretend gems, and Lincoln logs sold in sets in which you can create your own small version of the Wilderness Lodge!

Another campfire movie missed

Michael wasn't interested in that night's Fort Wilderness campfire movie, "The Little Mermaid," so we passed on the chance to experience that and headed back to bed in our cabin.

Another wonderful day at Walt Disney World had come to an end. We all were happy and ready for more magical fun at the Magic Kingdom in the morning.

Next... Monday, 6/16/03: We finally make it to the Magic Kingdom!

Posted by: Liv2CdWorld on Sep. 29, 2003 9:58 am/pm

:clap:  Yet another great report! :clap:

WOW, so much to comment on.  I'm glad that Michael got to be a Jedi in training.  Would love to see some pictures!

Trails End sounds like a great place to eat!  We'll have to check it out in December!

Too bad you missed your Sci-Fi PS's, that's one of our favorite places to eat too (we have MANY favorite places to eat :) )

Whispering Canyon Cafe is a blast!!  We love to eat there! 2 trips ago, we had Charlie Horse as our Waitperson too!  And the Wilderness Lodge, I can't say enough good things about!  I love it there (probably why we stayed there every year for the past 4 trips :) )

Thanks for sharing!

Oh, and I'm glad both of your bags found their way back to you LOL

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 29, 2003 10:28 am/pm

Thanks for the kind words, Beth! And it wasn't so bad missing our Sci-Fi PS time... we did eat there during our April trip, after all.

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 30, 2003 9:59 am/pm

Monday, 6/16/03: We finally get to the Magic Kingdom!

Mickey woke us up again while we were asleep in our cabin. I wonder why he always uses the phone and doesn't come and knock on our door?

Weather Report:
After breakfast in our cabin we ventured out and found the weather to be sunny and hot again today -- but later on it started raining.

The best things today:
  • Today we went to the Magic Kingdom and Michael rode Splash Mountain for the very first time -- and he loved it! Carol and I remember being very nervous when we rode it our first time, but he did fine (closing his eyes on the big drop helped, he said). We bought the picture of us coming down the big drop, with all of us seated in the back row of the log. We opted to have the picture along with a Splash Mountain magnet and frame for the photo delivered the next day to Fort Wilderness for us to pick it up then.
  • Playing on Tom Sawyer Island
  • Talking on 2-way family radio: First Carol rode Big Thunder Mountain with a radio while Michael and I were on Tom Sawyer Island with our other radio. Then we switched, with me riding BTM while she stayed with Michael on the island -- Michael didn't want to ride Big Thunder Mountain any day we were at the Magic Kingdom (maybe he knew something? ) and hasn't gone on it ever in his life yet. Carol and I both enjoyed being able to communicate with each other, even while riding on the coaster! I could see them waving their hands through the gun slits at me while they were in Fort Langhorn. Very cool!

The worst thing today:
  • I did laundry late Monday night while Carol and Michael slept. Even at that hour the laundry room was very crowded. One washer was already broken when I arrived and then one of the ones I was using broke halfway through washing the load (the 6th washer from the left). There were so many people doing laundry that I had to wait for a dryer for part of my load. I was glad that I was able to get a $2 refund the next day at the trading post for the washer that quit working on me.
  • It started raining on this day in the afternoon, and for the rest of our vacation we were dodging the raindrops. That wouldn't be so bad, but we had put off going to the campfire program and we weren't going to be able to experience that in the rain because they cancelled the movies. Tonight we were thinking of going to see "The Apple Dumpling Gang" because it would be Old West/Wilderness themed, but the rain forced us to change our plans.
The funniest thing today:
At Cinderella's Royal Feast in the Grand Floridian, we asked the Prince if he ever got away from all the princess stuff and spent some time doing man stuff. He confided in us that he sometimes has a night out of the castle with the guys, rides horses with Gaston and even drives the race cars in Tomorrowland. Michael was very happy to hear this.

Today we tried Cinderella's Gala Feast...
at the Grand Floridian: The food was excellent! Even better than chef Mickey's. Michael said it was the best pizza in all of WDW. Carol and I loved the buffet there as well.

I was glad to see "Big Bertha" there again, although I seem to recall that it actually moved (banging the drums, for example) when it played the last time I was there years ago. Could it be that the music is just a CD of it now?

Carol had convinced us she needed this dinner to allow her "princessy side" to come out. Must be tough living in a house with all males except for her! Michael is at the age where he doesn't like any princesses except Princess Lea (she's cool because she's in Star Wars). But we honored her with this dinner and both Michael and I were well-behaved and put up with all that girly stuff for her.

The most magical moment today:
When Cinderella came to our table, Michael got as small as he could and hid his face in the back of the chair. We explained the phase he is in to Cindy and she pulled up a chair and talked to Michael one-on-one, gradually convincing him to forget about her being a princess and to just think of her as a friend. Amazingly, she soon had him accepting this, turning around, and talking with her normally for a few minutes before she needed to move on.

Arriving at the Magic Kingdom:
This morning was our first time travelling from Fort Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom by boat. That is a very delightful way to experience WDW and I took videos of our water journey, including views of the former Discovery Island (formerly Treasure Island) and River Country. I explained the water bridge to Michael after we passed by Wilderness Lodge and the Contemporary Resort. As the Magic Kingdom got closer and closer to us as we sailed across the Seven Seas Lagoon, I noted to myself that this was a much more pleasant way to get to the Magic Kingdom than by bus or even in your own car and then having to park in the Magic Kingdom parking lot.

Take the boat or drive from Fort Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom?
It really doesn't take any more time to go to the Magic Kingdom from Fort Wilderness via boat instead of your own car or van. One time when we had all come over in our Minnie-Van, Carol decided that for the way back she'd take the boat while Michael and I took the monorail to the TTC, walked to the parking lot tram, took the tram to near where our van was parked, walked to our van, then drove to our cabin in Fort Wilderness. Carol meanwhile took the boat from the Magic Kingdom which stopped at the Wilderness Lodge before arriving at the Fort Wilderness marina. She then walked to the Settlement bus depot, took a bus to the bus stop near our cabin, walked along Cedar Circle and then into the cabin. We arrived within a minute of each other, Carol second. But she could have easily been first if we were delayed at any step along our way. So relax and enjoy the boat!

When we left the Magic Kingdom to get ready for Cindy's Feast, we took the boat back to Fort Wilderness and then the bus to our cabin, got changed and freshened up, then drove our Minnie-Van to the Grand Floridian where I let off Michael and Carol at the covered entrance (it was raining hard then) and I went and parked the van over in the self-parking lot, then walked back with my mouse-eared umbrella (which got a lot of favorable comments).

The first thing we did in the Magic Kingdom:
We walked right down the middle of Main Street U.S.A. (I love writing that! ) to the hub where the first thing we did was to have one of the Disney photographers take our picture with the Partners statue of Walt & Mickey behind us and the castle in the background. We were all still fresh and looking good, it being morning, and we're glad we did it then because later in the day it started storming!

We did ride other atractions today, such as Tomorrowland's Indy Speedway, but I'm only presenting the high points of the day here. Pal Mickey toured the Magic Kingdom with us, most of the time with me holding him and then using the repeat function so that Michael and Carol could also hear what he said when he wanted to share something with us about where we were. We didn't have fancy clothes for Pal Mickey (and also it was raining then), so he stayed behind, locked up in the cabin when the rest of us went to feast with Cindy. We didn't make him do chores like Cindy had to do when she wasn't allowed to go to the ball, though.

Dining today
Breakfast was in our cabin, as usual. Refreshments at Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square. Lunch at Pecos Bills at 2:20 pm. Supper was at Cinderella's Royal Feast at the Grand Floridian.

Notes for next time:
I'm glad we brought our own laundry detergent from home, because it costs $1.25 for a 1-load size box of Tide detergent there in the laundry building. 1 load's worth of Bounce & Downy also cost $1.25. Washers cost $2 (8 quarters). Dryers are $1 for 15 minutes of drying time, with a maxium 60 minute run time. It is stated on the dryers that the average drying time is 45-60 minutes based on an average load of 4 towels, 2 jean pants, 2 shorts, 2 shirts, and 4 undergarments. I used 4 washers at $2 each and $3.50 on dryers.

Posted by: RichKoster on Sep. 30, 2003 11:28 am/pm

Our Fifth Day -- Tuesday, 6/17/03: Another magical day at the Magic Kingdom

Mickey must have our phone number memorized by now, because he called us early once again this morning to tell us about the big doin's going on that day. We enjoyed our breakfast while watching tapes of the fun we had the day before in the Magic Kingdom and at night with Cindy and her prince. Michael had a chocolate waffle with bacon and orange juice while Carol and I had coffee, scrambled eggs and bacon with our orange juice.

Driving to the Magic Kingdom in the rain
Because the Weather Channel said there would be hot with scattered showers all day and it was already raining that morning, we decided to stay a little dryer for a while at least and took our Minnie-Van to the Magic Kingdom, parking it in the Magic Kingdom parking lot in the Pluto section, row 21.

The front row!
One of the first things we did was to go back to Splash Mountain because Michael was up for another ride on it. This time we all asked to sit in the front row, and the CMs let us. I knew it would make a better picture with us up front. Michael kept his eyes open this time and we all enjoyed the great view. It was wetter sitting in the front than in the back like yesterday, but it wasn't bad. Michael's position in between Carol and me kept him the driest of all. And it was sprinkling and raining lightly that morning anyway, so it really didn't matter. We decided to buy today's photo, too, because it looked so good with us up front. It was 11:11 am when we told them to deliver it to Fort Wilderness, just like we did yesterday.

What we need is more water! Oh, and a Mickey ice cream, too
After Splash Mountain, we wanted more water -- the kind you drink!

So we bought a bottle of water along with a Mickey ice cream sandwich (total: $5), which we all shared there at the bridge to Splash Mountain, watching people come down the waterfall.

Later we came near the churro cart and split a churro with chocolate sauce and another bottle of water (Did I say it was hot today? Well, it was! ). Total cost: $5.25. Churros are much better at Disneyland than the Magic Kingdom. It is a regional dish in Southern California... here at WDW it is just an oddity and isn't made as well. The one with chocolate sauce we shared didn't taste as good as the regular cinnamon one I had years ago in Walt's original park.

More attractions!
Next we rode small world and did our usual thing of making penny wishes in whichever land we wanted (cost: 5¢). After that we took flight with Peter Pan where we conviced Michael not to make a penny wish over Neverland. We followed that up with some intensive penny wishes at Cinderella's fountain behind the castle (cost: 50¢). The Disney Magic must have worked on our wishes, because they've come true: We're returning to WDW this week.

Lunchtime! Come and get it!
When we got hungry we went back to Fort Wilderness to make our own lunch. This was the time that we did our experiment to see which was faster, taking the boat/bus combination back or taking the monorail/tram/van back to our cabin (and the result was virtually a dead heat). When we got to our cabin I fired up the grill while Carol cooked some side dishes in the kitchen. It had stopped raining but was still hot and very humid, so I kept going in and out of the cabin to check on how the steak and hot dog were coming along. Carol and I split the steak, but Michael preferred having a grilled hot dog, which was fine with us. We also had salad and hot buttered corn on the cob. Mmmmm, mmmmm!
:9 :wow:

Fort Wilderness fun
The rain was still holding off after lunch, so Michael and I swam in the Meadow pool, with Michael using his life vest. But both of us had forgotten to bring his ear plug (for ear tubes, one of which already came out) so we kept our swim time short and were careful not to get any water in his ear. We went to the Meadow trading post where Michael window shopped (playing with the guns and hats with another boy) while I got a refund on the previous night's broken washing machine and picked up our Splash Mountain photo and purchases from the day before. By then it was 5:42 pm so we left to join Carol again. Since we couldn't afford to rent a golf cart during our stay at Fort Wilderness, we used the buses and that worked out fine. It started raining again while we waited for the bus to take us back to our cabin, but we had our umbrellas plus the bus stop was covered so we were fine.

Rained out movie again
We relaxed in the cabin and got to sleep early because that night's campfire program was cancelled due to the rain. We really didn't want to see "The Tigger Movie" anyway.

Besides, we needed to catch up on our sleep because we'd try to get up early enough to make it to Extra Magic Hour at Epcot the next day.

Next: We spend our sixth day at Epcot

Posted by: Liv2CdWorld on Oct. 01, 2003 9:01 am/pm

Your reports are putting a smile on my face :)

I think of my son during our trip in May when you speak of Michael.

Frankie rode Splash Mountain for the first time as well.  He had a BLAST!  We didn't get the picture because he was blocked by the person in front of him :(  .  Next time....

The boat ride to MK is incredible isn't it?  It's a nice relaxing way to end a day at MK.  During our last trip, Frankie and I would frequently take a round trip boat ride at night while DH was with the baby.

So, you'd recommend the Gala Feast?  It's buffet?  Since I'm the only princess and I'm surrounded by 3 princes, will they be totally bored?

You must be jumping out of your skin.  You leave tomorrow right?

Posted by: RichKoster on Oct. 01, 2003 9:17 am/pm

---------------------QUOTE BEGIN-------------------
Your reports are putting a smile on my face :)

I think of my son during our trip in May when you speak of Michael.

Frankie rode Splash Mountain for the first time as well.  He had a BLAST!  We didn't get the picture because he was blocked by the person in front of him :(  .  Next time....

The boat ride to MK is incredible isn't it?  It's a nice relaxing way to end a day at MK.  During our last trip, Frankie and I would frequently take a round trip boat ride at night while DH was with the baby.

So, you'd recommend the Gala Feast?  It's buffet?  Since I'm the only princess and I'm surrounded by 3 princes, will they be totally bored?

You must be jumping out of your skin.  You leave tomorrow right?


Yes, Cindy's Royal Feast is a buffet: all you care to eat and a vast selection of very high-quality food. Your "princes" can talk to Cindy's prince like Michael and I did -- that's a nice bit of "man talk" they can look forward to and helps get through all that princessy-stuff.

Yup! I'm hurriedly finishing up packing and trying desperately to finish these trip reports, too, from our June trip before leaving early tomorrow morning!

Posted by: RichKoster on Oct. 01, 2003 8:26 am/pm

Day Six -- Wednesday, 6/18/03: Epcot

We were up early, ate breakfast quickly, and arrived at Epcot in time for the Extra Magic Hour.

As soon as we passed through a long line at security, we used our Annual Passes and entered the turnstyles. Then we made a bee-line to Test Track. Apparently other Guests got in even earlier than us or ran there, because there already was a long line of people waiting to ride it without FastPasses. They probably got a FastPass and then got in the regular line to see it that way first, planning on going a second time with their FastPass. Anyway, we didn't want to wait in the regular line since we now had our own FastPasses, so we walked away to look at other things waiting for our FastPasses to be usable starting at noon.

As it turned out, if we had waited on the regular line right then, it would have been shorter than the long 45 minute line we had using our FastPass later!

We walked past Mission: SPACE but weren't allowed to go into the entry plaza as it wasn't in soft opening back then. Sure looks pretty, though!

All three of us went into Ellen's Energy Adventure -- for our first time. The last time Carol and I were at Universe of Energy Michael wasn't even born yet. We liked the show, but can't they do anything with the face on the Ellen animatronic? I mean, really!

We then explored Innoventions and saw a really neat robotic dog that a CM put through its paces for us. She also brought out another, newer robotic dog and showed us that one, too. Just the thing for kids allergic to pet fur!

We played a bit with the Disney Software videogames, but most of them didn't really interest us so we moved on after a few minutes.

We were very interested in the preview area in Innoventions about Mission: SPACE and we took a lot of the computerized quizzes there.

Michael and I also participated in the ToonTown demo. Michael got to be Mickey Mouse and I chose Donald Duck so I could be next to him. I wound up being the winner, but I was playing against 3 kids.
You think I wasn't going to give it my all? No way! I was out to have fun, too!

Carol found where you can send email messages so she did that. I'll have to go back there on our next trip and use that, too!

Test Track, where the Fast Passes go even faster than the cars!
When it was time to use our Test Track Fast Passes, we were shocked to see long lines there -- even for those with a Fast Pass! The Fast Pass wait time for Test Track was listed as 60+ minutes, but actually it took us 45 minutes from entering the line to walking off the ride (for entry Noon to 1 pm). So those wait times, take with a grain of salt.

This is one attraction where the term Fast Pass is a misnomer. Waiting 45 minutes in line with a Fast pass is ridiculous.

For the same attraction the standby line was 3 hours and the single rider wait time was 90 minutes. It is good advice to tet to Test Track ASAP as soon as the gates open because the Fast Passes for it go quick! By mid-morning all of them were taken.

We all rode Test Track for the first time and liked it. Michael said it wasn't as scary as he thought it would be, although he did close his eyes for most of it.

To me, the ride is okay -- but I can't see spending that kind of money on a ride which isn't an E-ticket ride in my opinion. The attraction doesn't have "heart" like the attractions of old had, so it leaves me kind of cold. I wouldn't feel like I have to ride it again next time: been there, done that.

Here comes the rain again...
Exactly as we were about to exit the post-show area of Test Track, it started coming down in buckets! Good thing we weren't on the track at the time of the downpour -- or still in line and then have them shut down the ride for the day.

We put on our ponchos and used our umbrellas, is was raining so hard.


Good news: Figment is back.

Bad news: The original version of this attraction with Figment and Dreamfinder was much, much, MUCH better. At least Figment is back... there: I said something nice about the ride. The interactive after-show area was much better in the original version vs. how it is today, too. I was very disappointed to find out that the second floor is going to waste now. You don't even get a chance to look at the cool glass roof from inside anymore.

One thing about the ever-present souvenir shop attached to the end of the after-show area of the Epcot Imagination attraction: Not necessarily to buy it, but check out the new way to do "portraits" that you can have done there. It's cool! You have a 3D sculpture of sorts engraved in a block of plexiglass (or some sort of plastic) with your choice of Disney logos or Characters put within it. It is about the size of a very small sculpture or paperweight or figurine or computer desk buddy object. You can have an image of just yourself, or entire group/family, or couples....whoever wants to be in it with you. That's a refreshing change to the 5x7/8x10 photo portraits now being done seemingly everywhere on the property. We didn't buy one, but these things are very cool-looking.

We also created our own goofy-looking picture at the KODAK Incredible Picture Lab. The link to it has expired now, but no big loss.

We saw Honey, I Shrunk the Audience -- first time for Michael. He liked it and Carol and I still like it, too. The new pre-show was nice, but I still love that "Makin' Memories" song.

Lunch at The Land

When we were ready to eat, we went to The Land and ate in the food court. We asked Michael if he wanted to participate in the Junior Chef program before lunch -- and we stopped to check it out -- but he decided he was already hungry for lunch so we each got what we wanted and then all of us shared two Tollhouse cookies from the bakery area for dessert. So, we still got our chocolate chip cookie treat.

Those were the highlights of our trip to Epcot. When we returned to Fort Wilderness it was still raining hard so we couldn't go to the pool today. And the rain also wiped out the movie at the campfire that night. Michael and I went to pick up our Splash Mountain photo from the day before, taking our van and parking in the 15 minute parking area, which gave him a few minutes to play with the wide selection of wilderness-style toy guns they have at the Meadow trading post. Then we walked to the campfire area so he'd at least see what it looks like where they show the movies when it isn't raining.

I'll add more about this day next week, but those are the high points.

Thursday, 6/19/03: Disney's Animal Kingdom

We spent the day in the rain at Disney's Animal Kingdom. There were virtually no lines at the Kali River Rapids and we didn't mind getting wet on that attraction because we already were wet from the rain! Since we already had on our ponchos, nothing really bothered us while on that ride.

It was all of our first times on it - - and we all liked it so much an the lines were so short that when we got off we walked back to the entrance and rode it again! It was fun to operate the remote controls and have the elephant statues squirt the other Guests riding through it, too.

We shared a meal in Tusker House. I had meant to try the other food item they have that, but ordered the rotisserie chicken out of force of habit. It still is the best rotisserie chicken that I've ever had anywhere.

I'll post more details about what we did at Disney's Animal Kingdom another day, but that were the most memorable things.

Thursday night, 6/19/03: Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue

Thursday night we went to the second show of the evening at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. They seated us on the "shelf," which is what they call the balcony. We were on the right side as you face the stage, not quite against the proscenium arch but one table away from it. It was a pretty good view for being up there on the balcony.

The earlier you make your reservations for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue as well as the Spirit of Aloha luau show -- up to two years in advance -- the better the seats you'll get in most cases. They are assigned when your reservation is made and not when you pick up your tickets nor arrive at the show check-in podium. One exception to this would be if you decide to see one of those shows at the last minute and you are lucky enough to get someone's seat assignment that cancelled. So reserve as soon as you know when your WDW vacation will be in order to have a better chance at getting a great seat.

We made our reservations only about a month ahead of time, so that's the best we could get: up on the balcony off to the side.

Friday, 6/20/03 - Our last full day at WDW

The day began with a lot of rain again, but we had a few hours of "Walt Weather" when it stopped that afternoon!

Boma for breakfast

On our last full day at WDW, Friday, June 20th, it was raining very heavily. We started the day at Boma at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. That's where we had supper on our previous trip and breakfast this time. Boma is a buffet with a lot of family breakfast fare along with some interpretations of African food. There are no Disney characters here. We ate with Bruce (Rufus) & Marta Metcalf -- who are always a pleasure to be with -- and our special guest, Ron Schneider, who was the original Dreamfinder/Figment walkaround character at Epcot's Imagination pavillion as well as the voice of Dreamfinder in parts of that attraction's first version of the ride.

I'll post more details later about what a pleasure is was to meet Ron and talk with him in person (I previously had chatted with him online at many years ago). I'll also provide a picture, too.

When Michael had enough to eat and got bored with us adults talking he made friends with a boy sitting at the next table. That boy had brought his Game Boy with two Star Wars games on it, based on episodes 5 and 6. Michael also borrowed my camcorder then shot his own video of what Boma is like and some of the food they offer at breakfast.

After breakfast we said our goodbyes to Ron, Marta & Bruce then went shopping at Downtown Disney marketplace one last time and explored some of the shops there. The rain came down in buckets while we were in the World of Disney store.

A rainy trip to the Magic Kingdom
After shopping we went back to the cabin and said, "Even though it is raining, we want to do the parks -- so, let's do it!"
We took the boat from the Fort Wilderness Marina and as soon as the boat pulled up to the Magic Kingom dock the rain stopped. We had "Walt weather" for about 4 hours that afternoon and it was a welcome break from all the heavy rain. What a perfect way to end our last hours there!

I didn't bring Pal Mickey or my camera that afternoon, though, because it was still coming down so hard when we were back at the cabin. But it turned out that we could have brought both of them without them getting wet.

We were able to get Fastpasses for Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin and we also got el primo, wonderful seats at Town Square in front of the little park where the flagpole is, looking right down the middle of Main Street U.S.A. to see the 3 pm parade which ran late due to the earlier rain. So it was more like the 3:30 parade.

It was our first time getting to see the Share A Dream Come True parade and it is wonderful.

Surviving the weather:

Take it easy and mello, and the magic falls into place all by itself! The worst thing is how our Southern heat and humidity can drain one's energy. Pray for rain, because it is glorious and much more comfortable than the typical summertime sunny Florida weather -- ugh!

On our last afternoon we literally had 3 1/2 hours of Walt weather between summer thunderstorm downpours, some of which made national news in their severity while we were there. But between rains it was wonderful! We saw the new MK parade from Town Square, rides were walk-ons (15-20 minute waits and under), and it was so less crowded that it was humane to be there. Pray for rain! Rain is your friend at WDW theme parks! ;)

Rich's "first haircut" ...or... "Songs and a haircut, no wait!"

Another highlight of the day besides the break in the weather was that I finally got what I've always wanted to do at the Magic Kingdom: get my hair cut at the Harmony Barbershop. When the parade was over we walked to the other side of Town Square to see some of the parade again before it headed backstage. Then Carol said, "Hey! Let's go to the barbershop and see what the lines are like." So we went in and there wasn't anyone sitting in one of the barber chairs, where Michal the barber was waiting for a customer! The woman barber was cutting someone's  hair in the other chair but there was no waiting for Michael. I saw a family in the barbershop waiting for their child's haircut to be finished, so I aasked "Is nobody waiting for a haircut?" They said no, so I sat down for a haircut right after walking into the shop.

While I was sitting there with Michal giving me a great haircut, in walked all four members of the Dapper Dans. They're the barbershop quartet that performs along Main Street U.S.A. They sang a few songs for all of us -- even took a request from me and sang "Minnie's Yoo Hoo."

One cute thing the barbers do when you get a haircut (if you want) is to sprinkle your hair with pixie dust -- which looks like multi-color glitter. I decided to get that put on my hair and got so much I shook my head over Carol and Michael to share it with them, too.

The cost was $15 (for an adult cut), plus tip.

Now it's time to say goodbye..."

The Magic Kingdom closed at 7 pm for an E-Ticket night so after doing a few more attractions we had to leave. As we were heading back, waiting under the canopy at the dock for the boat back to Fort Wilderness, it started raining again -- then raining harder -- then getting very windy and even more rain. After a very long wait, a boat came and docked -- but after all of the passengers were let off the boat none of us were allowed to board it because there was a problem with the boat's oil pressure. So we waited in line while they were fixing that right there at the dock. The CMs told us they sent out word for more boats to come. Just before the second boat docked, the problem had been fixed on the original boat and we all were allowed to board. We were happy to get a dry seat inside the boat.

Wrapping up the report

What special things we did on this trip:
  • Staying in a cabin at Fort Wilderness Resort and campground
  • Star Wars Weekend
  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
  • Pal Mickey
  • Chef Mickey's
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe on Father's Day
  • Cinderella's Royal Feast at the Grand Floridian
  • Rich and Michael seeing the Titanic exhibit on International Drive while Carol had time on her own at the Magic Kingdom
  • Boma breakfast with Ron Schneider and Bruce & Marta Metcalf
  • a haircut for Rich at the Harmony Barbor Shop

What we'd do again, and why:
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe for the fun, rowdy, and delicious meals
  • Staying at Fort Wilderness in a cabin: full kitchen, roomy home-like ambiance

What we'd never do again, and why:
  • Michael being at the age where he's starting to grow out of liking Character meet and greets. Hopefully he'll eventually see that older kids and adults have fun doing this and he won't think he's too old for it.
  • Don't wait until just a few weeks before your trip to make a reservation for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue because you'll probably be seated up in the balcony which we don't think is as much fun as being on the main floor.
  • Rich will never try to buy wine and/or beer at a supermarket again after 2 am, because there's no way they'll sell it to you!

What we want to do on one of our next trips to WDW that we haven't all done or seen together:
  • Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party
  • Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach: None of us have ever been to Blizzard Beach and Michael wasn't born yet when Carol & Rich last did Typhoon Lagoon
  • Miniature golf at Disney's Winter/Summerland
  • DisneyQuest
  • More time to explore Epcot's World Showcase
  • Epcot's Living Seas
  • D-MGM's Backstage Tour
  • Wishes fireworks at the Magic Kingdom
  • Mickey's PhilharMagic
  • Mission: SPACE
  • a land/sea vacation at WDW and on the Disney Cruise Line
  • other Character meals that we haven't done yet
  • Spend more time over at the Kennedy Space Center
    What tips we have for fellow vacationing Disney EchoEars:
    • Don't overpack or over-plan: There's more to do than you think and time can easily get away from you resulting in you not being able to do all the resort things you'd like to do (We wanted to do more at Fort Wilderness Resort than we wound up doing, but the rainy weather in the second half of our vacation prevented some of that.)
    • In hot months pack extra clothes and underwear -- or be prepared to do laundry often: Taking a shower in the middle of each day helps you freshen up and get relief from the hot, sticky weather -- but then you need to put on clean clothes.
    • Bring baby powder/Shower-to-Shower powder to sprinkle on yourself after bathing: It really helps keep you cooler in hot weather
    • Also bring "sweat rags" (washcloths) from your resort room with you to freshen up while on the go in the parks (but remember to leave them in the room before you pack up and go home! )
    • Bring less cash: Instead, charge more to the room or a credit card/debit card.
    • Beware of age-appropriate negativism in your children! Our DS at 7 1/2 could be moody and a picky eater.
    • Michael didn't like any of the pizzas at WDW until he ate at Cinderella's Royal Feast at the Grand Floridian, where he loved the pizza!
    • If you are on a low-salt diet, beware of the fried chicken at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue: Sure it is tasty, moist and tender -- but it is very salty, in both the meat and the skin

    I'll add more to this trip report next week . . . but for now I must stop because I'll be arriving at WDW in about 10 hours on our next trip! This time we'llbe staying at the Polynesian Resort again, hopefully in Fiji facing the marina from the 3rd floor. The plane lands at 9:30 in the morning and I'll zip from the airport to WDW as fast as I can. Seeya real soon, EchoEars!

    Posted by: RichKoster on Nov. 14, 2003 11:24 am/pm

    ---------------------QUOTE BEGIN-------------------
    Boma for breakfast

    On our last full day at WDW, Friday, June 20th, it was raining very heavily. We started the day at Boma at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. That's where we had supper on our previous trip and breakfast this time. Boma is a buffet with a lot of family breakfast fare along with some interpretations of African food. There are no Disney characters here. We ate with Bruce (Rufus) & Marta Metcalf -- who are always a pleasure to be with -- and our special guest, Ron Schneider, who was the original Dreamfinder/Figment walkaround character at Epcot's Imagination pavillion as well as the voice of Dreamfinder in parts of that attraction's first version of the ride.


    Seeing a story of Ron's quoted on MousePlanet this week reminded me of the many stories Ron Schneider shared with us while we had breakfast together. He's given me permission to share with all of you EchoEars the same story he passed along to MousePlanet:

    "From 1982-1987 I was the original strolling Dreamfinder at Epcot's Journey Into Imagination. On one of my first visits to the new pavilion I was walking in through the employee access gate on the northwest end of the building when I nearly tripped over my new co-worker!

    "Figment was on his little purple knees, writing his name in the wet cement just inside the new backstage access gate.

    "It's a little faded, but still there today in the cement just before you step off stage. And it looks like Figment learned to write from Mickey himself -- his E is printed backwards!"

    Thanks for sharing that with us, Ron!

    Posted by: SOUTHERNDISNUT on Nov. 15, 2003 2:07 am/pm

    :bowdown: Wow, I had a great time just reading all of the adventures and having the tour of the lodge.  Great read and impressive layout.

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